I first met Grae three days before he was called up to the Big Leagues by the Houston Astros. We had an interview lined up which took place on Constellation Field in the scorching Texas heat. Baseball has a history in Grae’s family, his grandfather is considered the Archie Manning of Ole Miss Baseball. His grandfather was a 2-sport athlete. His grandfather was All-SEC in basketball as well as baseball. This information is important because you can tell that the apple did not fall too far from the tree.
He was drafted in the amateur draft but decided to go to Ole Miss and follow in his grandfather’s and Uncles’ footsteps. Two years later he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Houston Astros.
When I spoke with him, I asked him what he did to create more power at the plate and barrel the ball more. He crushed 16 home runs in Corpus Christi for the Hooks in 2022 and was enjoying success at the plate early in the 2023 season with the Space Cowboys with 6 home runs while hitting .284 – with a slash line of .400/.443/.843. He focused on attacking each at-bat one pitch at a time, not trying to get outside of who he was. He also learned that some of the best hitters in the game did not have great swings, but they stayed consistent and through that, they were able to find success.
Brett Chancey: Grae thank you for taking my questions as you prepare to take on the Colorado Rockies this week.
- Last time we spoke, you had not yet been called up. You were called up three days after my first interview with you. What has your time with the big-league club been like so far?
Grae Kessinger: It has been awesome. We (Houston Astros) have a talented group of guys. To be able to learn from and play with them daily is what you want when you make it this far. Everyone shows up to the field ready to work and it is a cool culture to be a part of.
Brett Chancey: Being on a veteran team like the Houston Astros, can you give us a sense of the cohesiveness that you see in the clubhouse no matter if the team is winning or losing?
Grae Kessinger: every day gets treated as a new day. Whatever happens the day before, good, or bad, does not matter. That is how this team stays focused and performs so well daily.
Brett Chancey: What did it feel like, to hit your first major league home run? And who did you give the ball to, or do you still have it?
Grae Kessinger: Feeling the ball come off the bat was (really) special. I was quite sure I got it good enough to get the ball out of the yard. It is good to get that first homer out of the way. I still have the ball and am working on getting it framed up with my jersey.
Brett Chancey: Coming from a line of major league players, and former All-Stars I’m sure they talk to you about adversity. What was your approach at the plate in your first at-bat Sunday? (Coming off a tough loss the night before?)
Grae Kessinger: In baseball, mistakes are going to happen. Of course, nobody wants to make them but all you can do is bounce back. Each pitch is separate from all the others. Just move on and play the game. I just always stay confident in my abilities and play the game hard.
Brett Chancey: What is your focus each day when you get to the ballpark? How do you stay mentally ready when you are in the lineup vs. when you are not listed?
Grae Kessinger: I just try to pay attention to the game. If I am not in the lineup, I just try to watch the game and learn. From how hitters approach certain pitchers to trying to find sequences and tendencies to pick up on. Instead of just eating seeds, I use them every day to learn something to help me be a better player.
Grae is certainly making the most of his opportunities at the plate. The question above was a reference to a double play gone bad that saw him throw wide of first baseman Jose Abreu and where the Angels would win that game. From his responses you can tell the rookie wasn’t rattled, it was reported that several teammates of his stopped by his locker to make sure he knew things would work out. This story has a great ending. He went 2 for 4 the next day narrowly missing a home run to deep left-center field. His offensive numbers continue to be exceptionally good even though it may be a small sample size. I was always taught it is not how many opportunities you get in the game; it is what you do with those opportunities. I look forward to watching this young player get better and help the Astros charge to another deep playoff run.
Here are Grae’s numbers on the season.
19 AB, 2R, 5H, 1HR, 1 RBI, .263 AVG, .417 OBP, and .891 OPS
Brett Chancey is the co-host of the Locked on Astros Podcast. He can be followed on Twitter/Instagram @htownwheelhosue or @stros411 on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook.